‘Butterfly Bill’ Book Honors Old Casa Romantica Volunteers

During one of the weekly story sessions at Casa Romantica Cultural Center & Gardens last month, volunteers paid tribute to a colleague who has been committed to blending science and entertainment for children over the years.

Bill Schafer, known as “Butterfly Bill” around the grounds of the Casa Romantica, was recognized for his work by publishing a book entitled after his nickname.

The short children’s book, which will be sold in the cultural center’s gift shop, tells the story of the fictional Butterfly Bill, who descends from his hilltop home to teach young Casa Romantica visitors about Monarch butterflies.

It was written by Diane Bennett-Cheek, another Casa Romantica volunteer for five years who wanted to capture the “magic” impact that Schafer had on the children she interacted with.

“If you look at it, it’s quite special,” said Bennett-Cheek. “Kids love it. He’s just a very special guy—he just has this aura about him, and he does this as a hobby.

Schafer wasn’t always interested in raising butterflies. He only started around 2001, after a relative brought up the topic and gave him milkweed seeds to attract the insects.

“After that, I just kept growing more and got really involved in it,” he says San Clemente Times.

Butterfly Bill
Diane Bennett-Cheek (left) reads her new book, “Butterfly Bill” about Bill Schafer volunteering to children during story time at Casa Romantica on Feb. 22. Photo: Courtesy of Diane Bennett-Cheek

A friend at the San Clemente Garden Club further assisted him where he now raises five types of butterflies.

When the Garden Club contributed to setting up the Casa Romantica gardens when it opened in 2004, Schafer was involved in the process, which led to him volunteering there. He began bringing butterflies to story time from the garden he developed at his residence, earning him the title “Butterfly Bill”.

Schafer faithfully comes every Wednesday to spend time with kids aged 18 months to three years and cheer them on when he places butterflies on their hands and noses. He admits that he enjoys interacting with children and teaching them about science.

Having self-published a book previously that was also related to gardening, Bennett-Cheek thought he could organize the process to eventually publish the book in Schafer’s honor and sell it in the gift shop Casa Romantica.

“Initially I thought it would be very simple,” he said. “Take some photos, go to Kinko’s, mix it up… but it’s not like that at all. I think it might be a better product as a result.

Once friends and those around the nonprofit found out what she was trying, many of them volunteered their time to help. A professional photographer, a layout artist, and a friend who specializes in graphics all sacrificed their time or received a discount to put together the book.

Looking back, Bennett-Cheek says he could never do what took him more than a year to complete himself, but the product turned out to be great.

“The last page is sort of a group photo of Bill with the kids and it just says, ‘Thanks Bill for everything you do, when we see the butterfly we all think of you,’” explains Bennett-Cheek.

The book launch on Feb. 22 was “amazing,” he added, partly due to Casa Romantica’s unexpected contribution.

He had asked their permission from the start to avoid distraction, which they granted, but Casa officials also set up a table for Schafer to sign books and for drinks such as donuts and coffee during story time sessions. The cultural center also advertised the event on social media, which resulted in an audience of more than 50 people and sales of more than 30 books.

Their attitude surprised Bennett-Cheek, he said.

Following that, Casa Romantica hosted a lunch for people who contributed to the book and for Maureen Ohnstad, founder of the storytime tradition.

“It was a festive occasion,” said Bennett-Cheek. “This kind of surprised me… It was very good.”

Schafer added that the reading went well, and he credits Bennett-Cheek for writing the book.

Bennett-Cheek also referenced an event with the Garden Club scheduled for April 15, where Schafer will attend as usual to show off his butterflies and interact with the community.

If his presence at the upcoming GardenFest is any indication, Schafer will be there to spread joy and learning to the residents of San Clemente for as long as he can.

The Casa Romantica gift shop is open during visiting hours daily, from 10:00 to 16:00 Tuesday to Thursday, and 10:00 to 14:00 Friday to Sunday.

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